Category Archives: artists

A New Journey

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Taking Jasmine Kay Uy’s piece of art to heart, my daughter, Natalie, and I began a new journey in art journaling. We watched some YouTube videos and looked through a bunch of ideas on Pinterest. Then, we decided to just jump in.

Luckily, we’ve accumulated a LOT of supplies! We visit Hobby Lobby when we get a chance–and some “extra” money. We have a nice selection of scrapbooking papers, stickers, and tags. My husband used to paint in college, so we have acrylics and brushes. Plus, I went through a period of time where I wanted to give watercolor painting a try, so I have some nice, thick papers and tubes of watercolor.

I worked on a simple project with a watercolor rainbow, a stamped message: “dream on,” and some polka-dotted tissue paper Mod-Podged onto the page. Natalie drew and water-colored a bird with a stamped quote: “Believe in what you can do, not what you can’t do.” We both wanted inspirational quotes in our pieces.

art journaling 11-21-15

Through our experimentation, we came up with an idea for a children’s book. It seemed like once we opened the gates, the ideas just started pouring through. We drew up sketches for each page, setting off on a new adventure together. My mom and I used to talk about writing a book together. As Natalie and I worked, I said that we should bring grandma into the project, too. Then, maybe when that little girl wandering in the background of this picture is older, she can also join us!

It’s a fun way to try to recapture your creativity. And doing it with my daughter was the best part. What do you do to find your creative spirit? What inspires you?

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For the Love of Art

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Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a post with this picture. This is part of an art installment by Jasmine Kay Uy at University of Texas at Austin Department of Art and Art History. (Click on the link below the picture to see her portfolio.)

Coloring: Stress Relief & Creative Inspiration

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writer's coloring bookI recently saw an ad for Rachel Funk Heller’s, The Writer’s Coloring Book. If you click on the link to visit the website, it states: “Harness both sides of your writer’s brain with The Writer’s Coloring Book® and write better stories with less frustration.”

Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel and founder of Donald Maass Literary Agency, said, “Rachel Funk Heller’s book doesn’t ask you to color between the lines. Instead, it gives you great worksheets and visual tools to draw your own unique story.”

I purchased the book in PDF format from the website for $10. However, if you can’t afford that (which I can’t, but you know…) you can find similar coloring pages with inspirational quotes by doing a simple search. Google “inspirational coloring pages for adults” or search Pinterest for “quote coloring pages printables.” Here’s one from ColoringShapes.com I plan to try: “Today is going to be awesome.”

The best part: coloring helps you deal with stress. Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala says, “When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres. The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity when mixing and matching colors.The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.” This isn’t new information, as Carl Jung was “one of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique.” (“Coloring Isn’t Just For Kinds. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress,” Huffington Post)

So, take a break and color today! Then, come back here and let me know if it helped!

What Are You Reading?

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Though the words may differ, the advice is always the same: If you are a writer, you must also read–widely and often. Among my stacks of lit magazines, poetry collections, young adult novels, encyclopedias of paranormal/supernatural phenomenon, and geography/history resources are quite a few books on writing. I pulled these 4 to show you:

4 writing booksWriting from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice by Nancy Slonim Aronie (top left)

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (top right)

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood (bottom left)

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (bottom right)

There are others–such as Stephen King’s On Writing and most of Janet Burroway’s guides on narrative craft–that I return to often. But these are the books I’ve heavily marked with scribbled notes in the margins and little fluorescent tabs sticking out the sides.

In Ms. Aronie’s Writing from the Heart, I like the practical exercises she prescribes.

Write about a lie you told. Do not soften the circumstances. Be tough but gentle. Be tough in writing the truth, but be gentle on yourself. You were just being human. Do you think you’re the only person who lied to get what you wanted?

Write about a lie that was told to you. (p. 72)

From Bird by Bird, Ms. Lamott tells us

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around. (p. xii)

There is a door we all want to walk through, and writing can help you find it and open it. Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up. But publishing won’t do any of those things; you’ll never get in that way. (p. 13)

In Negotiating with the Dead, Ms. Atwood lets us know that “it is artists who possess the secret identities, the secret powers, and — if posterity goes their way — the last laugh… As for artists who are also writers, they are doubles twice Writing Down the Bonestimes over, for the mere act of writing splits the self into two.” (p. 32)

As you can see from the picture to the right, my copy of Writing Down the Bones is dense with tabs. I read Ms. Goldberg’s book while riding the bus to David Zimmerman’s novel writing class one summer in grad school at Iowa State University. In addition to the assigned and workshop readings, I chose to dive into this book that was recommended to me by a professor while I was still an undergrad at Simpson College. I believe it was one of those situations where it meant more when I finally got around to reading it, more than if I had read it back then. As if the right time would present itself, like a chance encounter with a person who’d been placed in your life precisely when you needed them the most. Such is a good book.

In Writing Down the Bones, Ms. Goldberg discusses the way we have to distance ourselves from the place (be it a physical or an emotional state) we need to write about. She gives the following metaphor:

Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this “composting.” Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil. (p. 14)

While writing, I return to these works often, and I may mention them again here.

How about you? What are you reading? What gives you inspiration? Whose advice do you find yourself returning to, time and again?

Music & Writing?

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Do you listen to music while you’re writing, or is it too distracting? My kids’ screams often serve as ambient noise while I work. Sometimes, I play nature and meditation CDs with names like Zen Garden or Orient Tranquility. (The kind you find below the machines that play music as you walk by, usually located in the same aisle with scented candles, flower vases, and throw pillows.) Other times, I have a little Norah Jones, Duncan Sheik, or–since I write YA fiction–Lorde playing softly. Then, during specifically angst-filled scenes, I might crank up Rammstein’s Du Hast to set the tone all the way to rage. Every now and then, I like it as close to silent as I can get after my 5 kids have gone to sleep. That’s the only way I can quiet my own mind enough to focus and draw my words to the surface. Though there are times when it gets to be too quiet, so I’ll turn on HGTV to feel like there’s someone talking that I need to ignore.

So, what kinds of music do you find inspiring? Who serenades you while you write?